Thursday 23 August 2012
Africa Express

Africa Express: follow the team which left Morocco at the end of April for a 10-month tour of Africa!

Recently crossing Congo, Namibia and arriving in South Africa

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  • Stage 1 / Paris – Rabat
  • Stage 2 / Rabat – Marrakech – Ouarzazate
  • Stage 3 / Mauritania and the Desert Train
  • Stage 4 / Senegal

Since the team’s last account was published in the 12 June edition of UIC eNews, the Africa Express team has crossed:

  • Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso (stage 5)
  • Benin (stage 6)
  • Gabon (stage 7)
  • Stage 8 led the team from Pointe-Noire to Kinshasa
  • Stage 9 from Livingston to Windhoek in Namibia
  • Stage 10 from Windhoek to Cape Town in South Africa

Since late July, the Africa Express team has had the opportunity to travel on three African trains: they share their travelling experiences with us…

The team has so far travelled on the Trans-Gabon Railway, the railway connecting Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville in Congo, as well as the Starline train last week, which connects Windhoek to Walvis Bay in Namibia.

Each of these trains offered a unique experience.

On the Trans-Gabon Railway, Claire and Jérémy were struck by the modern wagons. On the day of their departure, they had the opportunity to visit the rail maintenance centre belonging to Trans-Gabon railway operator SETRAG, and held discussions with an enthusiastic guide. This is the blog relating to the visit:

As for the legendary Congo-Ocean railway, the team was pleased to be joined on their journey by a Congolese friend living in Paris. Thanks to him, the team members met the Chief Executive of the Congo-Ocean Railway (COR), with whom they discussed its future outlook and prospects. 15 years after the war, the flow of rail traffic between Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville continues, despite being slowed and encountering structural problems, i.e. track gauge which affects both the replacement of machinery and transport speed.
Although air transport is increasingly used and more paved roads are being built, the train remains a well used mode of transport.

On 27 July, the team members boarded a first-class train compartment (of far less comfort of course than those they had experienced in Europe!) for stage 8 of the journey (Pointe-Noire to Kinshasa). The train was scheduled to leave at 11am but did not depart until 3pm. The carriages were full and there were not enough seats for all the passengers.
On board, Claire and Jérémy were pleased to meet a martial arts instructor, Master Jacques, with whom they held lengthy discussions on the history of this legendary Congo-Ocean railway line, and on the war which had left its scars on rail traffic operations. The train had seen better days in terms of comfort and travel time (12 hours just a few years ago) and service frequency (three services a day in both directions in its heyday, compared to two to three times a week now).
As a result the team arrived in Brazzaville at 10am the next morning after a nearly 20-hour journey.

Finally, the team arrived in Namibia on 11 August (stage 9), before reaching South Africa on 28 August (stage 10) – just under four months after leaving Morocco at the end of April.

The team is currently heading up to Durban to study a project in early September to install prepaid meters for electricity in townships. The project is being implemented by Conlog, a South African subsidiary of Schneider Electric.

UIC wishes the team a successful continuation of the next stage of their project.

You can follow their journey by visiting

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01. On the train between Pointe-Noire and Brazzaville (© Africa Express / 2012)
02. (© Africa Express / 2012)
03. Technical visit to SETRAG maintenance centre (© Africa Express / 2012)
06. (© Africa Express / 2012)
07. Jérémy in front of the TransNamib train, connecting Windhoek to Walvis Bay: a 12-hour journey to cover 380 km… (© Africa Express / 2012)